By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The J.D. McCarty Center glowed with Christmas lights inside and out as it hosted its 23rd annual Christmas Lighting Ceremony and golf cart Christmas parade Monday.
The crowd cheered as Master of Lights honoree Sandra Nix flipped on the power switch for the 30-foot Christmas tree behind the main building. Nix was nominated for her volunteer work at the center, which includes sewing a variety of things for the children who are patients there.
Nix said this year, she sewed the children pillowcases and stockings, as well as special Christmas gifts for each of the children’s mothers. She also designed and sewed a 56th anniversary quilt for the J.D. McCarty Center.
“It’s pretty neat,” Nix said about being the Master of Lights this year, adding that when she told her husband, he teased her about flipping the switch. “He knows it’s quite an honor.”
She won’t be truly ready for the holiday to begin, though, until all of her granddaughters are back home, she said.
Her three grandchildren — Mary, Stacy and Danielle — were recently flown to a Dallas hospital after their Purcell home caught fire Nov. 20.
Danielle, 14, has returned home, and Mary, 11, has had five skin graphs that have taken “beautifully,” so the family is expecting her to return home soon as well, said the girls’ mother, Jennifer Epperson.
“Stacy should be coming home any time now. She’s up walking around,” Epperson said. “She’s being feisty.”
Mary, 11, is still being held in the hospital because of some lung problems, Epperson said.
“It’ll be a lot better once the girls come home,” Nix said.
“If you saw the house there’s nothing left,” Epperson said.
However, Epperson said this year, they plan to give the girls the best Christmas they have ever had.
After the lighting ceremony, the miniature Christmas parade began with the Noble marching band performing for the third consecutive year. The Madison Elementary School choir also performed for the second year in a row.
The theme for the golf cart Christmas parade this year was “A Very Disney Christmas.” Patients and staff create the floats every year.
Winners this year included Cinderella’s castle taking first place, Tow-mater taking second place and The Little Mermaid taking third place. Float creators won $175, $100 and $75, respectively.
The floats were judged by the Cerebral Palsy Commissioners, who are the governing board of the center.
TJ Turner, who had been an outpatient at the McCarty Center since he was 7, emceed the parade Monday night, announcing the band, each float as it passed by and the miniature train driven by the veterans group, 40 et 8 of Oklahoma. The veterans group founded the J.D. McCarty Center in 1946.
Turner is now a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, seeking a degree in broadcast journalism.
“I love talking,” Turner said. “Hopefully I’ll be a sports commentator some day.”
The center’s Director of Marketing Greg Gaston said their goal is to get kids to their highest level of functioning and independence.
“With TJ’s drive and motivation he is now able to go to OU,” Gaston said.
The night ended with a surprise visit from Santa Clause, trailing the Disney-themed floats and later visiting with children.
The center has unofficially marked the beginning of the Christmas season for the east side of Norman.
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.